Kingston University Biodiversity Action Group

21-12-15: Get Bashing!

We had our first volunteer rhodo bash of the season on Saturday the 12th of December

KUBAG volunteers were joined by students undertaking their Duke of Edinburgh  with the Environment Trust for Richmond upon Thames.  On the day we continued working in the area around Coombehust House, concentrating on the invasive plants on the upper banks of the slope.
Linda. Ifan and Ian clearing out lower stumps
Gemma and Lucy working on the large logs
The volunteers brought their normal levels of enthusiasm, clearing huge swathes of rhododendrons, leaving them in piles to be dealt with in February by our grounds maintenance team. 

Clearing the impenetrable green wall of rhodo
Adding a large glade in in the depths of the wood
Teams working left right and centre!
These events are always fun and you can see the difference that’s made in an area by the end of the session. We had created more room for growth for trees which were struggling to grown through the heavily shaded rhodo growth, as well as exposing standing deadwood to act as aerial markers allowing this important habitat type to be found easily by mobile species such as stag beetles. 
Standing dead wood exposed to invertebrates
Clearing rhododendron is always a long term project as it takes a long time to kill off re-growth as well as getting plants established in areas that were dominated by rhododendron due to issues such:

  1. The slow to decompose leaf litter providing inhospitable environments for seedlings to establish,
  2. The impoverish native of soils which have been dominated by rhododendron monocultures effectively killing off soil species associated with diverse plant communities;

The effects of rhododendrons on native woodland are serious enough to warrant the long term project as doing nothing will result in a vast decrease in biodiversity in our woodland habitat primarily due to extensive shading and the inhibiting of native seedlings germinating. 

Rhododendron has been established as a host to pathogens in the Phytophthora family, which as well as affecting rhododendrons can impact on our native species including larch and sweet chestnut. Phytophthora is known to cause sudden oak death, as the fungal disease has killed off large numbers of oak species native to the USA.

Removing the rhododendron from our sites also minimised the potential for Phytophthora being introduced to Kingston Hill. 

The fact that rhododendron roots exude toxins that help kill other plants is also often quoted, including this blog. However the evidence supporting this fact appears to not be fully supported by research as seen there. 

Despite this, the effects of shade, suppression on sampling establishment and the fact that it plays host to Phytophthora are all important reasons to maintain our efforts to eradicate this species from Kingston Hill.

We have our next rhodo bash at Kingston Hill on Saturday the 30th of January. 

We always need help on these events as the more people we have, the more we can clear. If you are free and are able to help, please get in touch by emailing me your name and contact details and any dietary constraints that you may have. 

By for now and have a great Christmas and New Year

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